The common chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), or simply the chiffchaff, is a common and widespread leaf warbler which breeds in open woodlands throughout northern and temperate Europe and Asia.
It is a migratory passerine which winters in southern and western Europe, southern Asia and north Africa. Greenish-brown above and off-white below, it is named onomatopoeically for its simple chiff-chaff song. It has a number of subspecies, some of which are now treated as full species. The female builds a domed nest on or near the ground, and assumes most of the responsibility for brooding and feeding the chicks, whilst the male has little involvement in nesting, but defends his territory against rivals, and attacks potential predators.
A small insectivorous bird, it is subject to predation by mammals, such as cats and mustelids, and birds, particularly hawks of the genus Accipiter. Its large range and population mean that its status is secure, although one subspecies is probably extinct.
The British naturalist Gilbert White was one of the first people to separate the similar-looking common chiffchaff, willow warbler and wood warbler by their songs, as detailed in 1789 in The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, but the common chiffchaff was first formally described as Sylvia collybita by French ornithologist Louis Vieillot in 1817 in his Nouveau Dictionnaire d'Histoire Naturelle.
Described by German zoologist Friedrich Boie in 1826, the genus Phylloscopus contains about 50 species of small insectivorous Old World woodland warblers which are either greenish or brown above and yellowish, white or buff below. The genus was formerly part of the Old World warbler family Sylvidae, but has now been split off as a separate family Phylloscopidae. The chiffchaff's closest relatives, other than former subspecies, are a group of leaf warblers which similarly lack crown stripes, a yellow rump or obvious wing bars; they include the willow, Bonelli's, wood and plain leaf warblers.
An old synonym, used for the chiffchaff was Phylloscopus rufus (Bechstein).
The common chiffchaff has three still commonly accepted subspecies, together with some from the Iberian Peninsula, the Canary Islands, and the Caucasus which are now more often treated as full species.
The common chiffchaff's English name is onomatopoeic, referring to the repetitive chiff-chaff song of the European subspecies. There are similar names in some other European languages, such as the Dutch tjiftjaf, the German Zilpzalp and Welsh siff-saff. The binomial name is of Greek origin; Phylloscopus comes from phyllon/φυλλον, "leaf", and skopeo/σκοπεω, "to look at" or "to see", since this genus comprises species that spend much of their time feeding in trees, while collybita is a corruption of kollubistes, "money changer", the song being likened to the jingling of coins.
The common chiffchaff is a small, dumpy, 10–12 centimetres (4 in) long leaf warbler. The male weighs 7–8 grammes (0.28–0.31 oz), and the female 6–7 grammes (0.25–0.28 oz). The spring adult of the western nominate subspecies P. c. collybita has brown-washed dull green upperparts, off-white underparts becoming yellowish on the flanks, and a short whitish supercilium. It has dark legs, a fine dark bill, and short primary projection (extension of the flight feathers beyond the folded wing). As the plumage wears, it gets duller and browner, and the yellow on the flanks tends to be lost, but after the breeding season there is a prolonged complete moult before migration. The newly fledged juvenile is browner above than the adult, with yellow-white underparts, but moults about 10 weeks after acquiring its first plumage. After moulting, both the adult and the juvenile have brighter and greener upperparts and a paler supercilium.
This warbler gets its name from its simple distinctive song, a repetitive cheerful chiff-chaff. This song is one of the first avian signs that spring has returned. Its call is a hweet, less disyllabic than the hooeet of the willow warbler or hu-it of the western Bonelli's warbler.
The song differs from that of the Iberian chiffchaff, which has a shorter djup djup djup wheep wheep chittichittichiittichitta. However, mixed singers occur in the hybridisation zone and elsewhere, and can be difficult to allocate to species.
When not singing, the common chiffchaff can be difficult to distinguish from other leaf warblers with greenish upperparts and whitish underparts, particularly the willow warbler. However, that species has a longer primary projection, a sleeker, brighter appearance and generally pale legs. Bonelli's warbler (P. bonelli) might be confused with the common chiffchaff subspecies tristis, but it has a plain face and green in the wings. The common chiffchaff also has rounded wings in flight, and a diagnostic tail movement consisting of a dip, then sidewards wag, that distinguishes it from other Phylloscopus warblers and gives rise to the name "tailwagger" in India.
Perhaps the greatest challenge is distinguishing non-singing birds of the nominate subspecies from Iberian chiffchaff in the field. In Great Britain and the Netherlands, all accepted records of vagrant Iberian chiffchaffs relate to singing males.
The common chiffchaff breeds across Europe and Asia east to eastern Siberia and north to about 70°N, with isolated populations in northwest Africa, northern and western Turkey and northwestern Iran. It is migratory, but it is one of the first passerine birds to return to its breeding areas in the spring and among the last to leave in late autumn. When breeding, it is a bird of open woodlands with some taller trees and ground cover for nesting purposes. These trees are typically at least 5 metres (16 ft) high, with undergrowth that is an open, poor to medium mix of grasses, bracken, nettles or similar plants. Its breeding habitat is quite specific, and even near relatives do not share it; for example, the willow warbler (P. trochilus) prefers younger trees, while the wood warbler (P. sibilatrix) prefers less undergrowth. In winter, the common chiffchaff uses a wider range of habitats including scrub, and is not so dependent on trees. It is often found near water, unlike the willow warbler which tolerates drier habitats. There is an increasing tendency to winter in western Europe well north of the traditional areas, especially in coastal southern England and the mild urban microclimate of London. These overwintering common chiffchaffs include some visitors of the eastern subspecies abietinus and tristis, so they are certainly not all birds which have bred locally, although some undoubtedly are.
The male common chiffchaff is highly territorial during the breeding season, with a core territory typically 20 metres (66 ft) across, which is fiercely defended against other males. Other small birds may also be attacked. The male is inquisitive and fearless, attacking even dangerous predators like the stoat if they approach the nest, as well as egg-thieves like the Eurasian jay. His song, given from a favoured prominent vantage point, appears to be used to advertise an established territory and contact the female, rather than as a paternity guard strategy.
Beyond the core territory, there is a larger feeding range which is variable in size, but typically ten or more times the area of the breeding territory. It is believed that the female has a larger feeding range than the male. After breeding has finished, this species abandons its territory, and may join small flocks including other warblers prior to migration.
The male common chiffchaff returns to its breeding territory two or three weeks before the female and immediately starts singing to establish ownership and attract a female. When a female is located, the male will use a slow butterfly-like flight as part of the courtship ritual, but once a pair-bond has been established, other females will be driven from the territory. The male has little involvement in the nesting process other than defending the territory. The female's nest is built on or near the ground in a concealed site in brambles, nettles or other dense low vegetation. The domed nest has a side entrance, and is constructed from coarse plant material such as dead leaves and grass, with finer material used on the interior before the addition of a lining of feathers. The typical nest is 12.5 centimetres (5 in) high and 11 centimetres (4 in) across.
The clutch is two to seven (normally five or six) cream-coloured eggs which have tiny ruddy, purple or blackish spots and are about 1.5 centimetres (0.6 in) long and 1.2 centimetres (0.5 in) across. They are incubated by the female for 13–14 days before hatching as naked, blind altricial chicks. The female broods and feeds the chicks for another 14–15 days until they fledge. The male rarely participates in feeding, although this sometimes occurs, especially when bad weather limits insect supplies or if the female disappears. After fledging, the young stay in the vicinity of the nest for three to four weeks, and are fed by and roost with the female, although these interactions reduce after approximately the first 14 days. In the north of the range there is only time to raise one brood, due to the short summer, but a second brood is common in central and southern areas.
Although pairs stay together during the breeding season and polygamy is uncommon, even if the male and female return to the same site in the following year there is no apparent recognition or fidelity. Interbreeding with other species, other than those formerly considered as subspecies of P. collybita, is rare, but a few examples are known of hybridisation with the willow warbler. Such hybrids give mixed songs, but the latter alone is not proof of interspecific breeding.
Like most Old World warblers, this small species is insectivorous, moving restlessly though foliage or briefly hovering. It has been recorded as taking insects, mainly flies, from more than 50 families, along with other small and medium-sized invertebrates. It will take the eggs and larvae of butterflies and moths, particularly those of the winter moth. The chiffchaff has been estimated to require about one-third of its weight in insects daily, and it feeds almost continuously in the autumn to put on extra fat as fuel for the long migration flight.
As with most small birds, mortality in the first year of life is high, but adults aged three to four years are regularly recorded, and the record is more than seven years. Eggs, chicks and fledglings of this ground-nesting species are taken by stoats, weasels and crows such as the European magpie, and the adults are hunted by birds of prey, particularly the sparrowhawk. Small birds are also at the mercy of the weather, particularly when migrating, but also on the breeding and wintering grounds.
The common chiffchaff is occasionally a host of brood parasitic cuckoos, including the common and Horsfield's cuckoos, but it recognises and rejects non-mimetic eggs and is therefore only rarely successfully brood-parasitised. Like other passerine birds, the common chiffchaff can also acquire intestinal nematode parasites and external ticks.
The main effect of humans on this species is indirect, through woodland clearance which affects the habitat, predation by cats, and collisions with windows, buildings and cars. Only the first of these has the potential to seriously affect populations, but given the huge geographical spread of P. c. abietinus and P. c. tristis, and woodland conservation policies in the range of P. c. collybita, the chiffchaff's future seems assured.
The common chiffchaff has an enormous range, with an estimated global extent of 10 million square kilometres (3.8 million square miles) and a population of 60–120 million individuals in Europe alone. Although global population trends have not been quantified, the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (that is, declining more than 30 percent in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as "least concern".
None of the major subspecies is under threat, but exsul, as noted above, is probably extinct. There is a slow population increase of common chiffchaff in the Czech Republic. The range of at least P. c. collybita seems to be expanding, with northward advances in Scotland, Norway and Sweden and a large population increase in Denmark.
Alder Moors is a local nature reserve in Woodley. The nature reserve is owned and managed by Wokingham Borough Council. The name 'Aldermoors' derives from the alder trees that populate this reserve.Alphonse Atoll
Alphonse Atoll is one of two atolls of the Alphonse Group, the other being St. François Atoll — both in the Outer Islands (Coralline Seychelles) coral archipelago of the Seychelles.Canary Islands chiffchaff
The Canary Islands chiffchaff (Phylloscopus canariensis) is a species of leaf warbler endemic to the Canary Islands, Spain. Sometimes the English name is spelled Canary Island chiffchaff.Chiffchaff
There are four species of bird named chiffchaff:
Common chiffchaff, Phylloscopus collybita (also often commonly referred to as the chiffchaff)
Iberian chiffchaff, Phylloscopus ibericus
Canary Islands chiffchaff, Phylloscopus canariensis
Western Canary Islands chiffchaff, Phylloscopus canariensis canariensis
Eastern Canary Islands chiffchaff, Phylloscopus canariensis exsul
Mountain chiffchaff, Phylloscopus sindianusEastern Canary Islands chiffchaff
The eastern Canary Islands chiffchaff or Lanzarote Island chiffchaff (Phylloscopus canariensis exsul) is an extinct subspecies of the Canary Islands chiffchaff endemic to the island of Lanzarote – and possibly also Fuerteventura – in the Canary Islands, Spain.
The eastern Canary Islands chiffchaff was more chestnut-backed and shorter-winged than the western Canary Islands chiffchaff, Phylloscopus canariensis canariensis. These birds were formerly considered subspecies of the common chiffchaff but separated (Clement & Helbig, 1998; Sangster et al., 2001) due to their morphological, bioacoustical, and mtDNA sequence differences (Helbig et al., 1996).
Apparently this subspecies was already very rare at the moment of its description. A number of specimens were collected at the beginning of the 20th century in the valleys of Haría (Lanzarote). There it could be observed in broom thickets in the high and fresh zones. Since then there are only some doubtful records. The presence of this subspecies in Fuerteventura is merely hypothetical, as no specimen was ever collected there, nor are there reliable records from that island.
The cause of extinction is unknown. Perhaps its final disappearance is related to the destruction and/or transformation of the vegetation in the high zones of the Macizo de Famara.Englemere Pond
Englemere Pond is a local nature reserve near North Ascot in Berkshire. The reserve is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The site is owned by Crown Estate and managed by Bracknell Forest Borough Council.Iberian chiffchaff
The Iberian chiffchaff (Phylloscopus ibericus) is a species of leaf warbler endemic to Portugal, Spain and North Africa, west of a line stretching roughly from the western Pyrenees via the mountains of central Spain to the Atlantic.Inkpen Crocus Fields
Inkpen Crocus Fields is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) based in Berkshire near Inkpen. It is within the North Wessex Downs. The area is managed by the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust. It is one of only two places in the UK containing wild Mediterranean crocuses. The site contains over 400,000 Wild Crocus.Järveküla Nature Reserve
Järveküla Nature Reserve is a nature reserve founded in 1990, situated by Lake Vörtsjärv in southern Estonia (Viljandi County) near the village of Järveküla. The nature reserve has been established to protect the population of white-tailed eagles present in the area, and includes pine forest and patches of bog.Other birds found in Järveküla Nature Reserve include: the Barn swallow (the national bird of Estonia), Eurasian wryneck, Eurasian golden oriole, Icterine warbler, River warbler, Spotted flycatcher, Eurasian tree sparrow, Common chaffinch, European greenfinch, European pied flycatcher, Eurasian skylark, Fieldfare, White wagtail, Yellowhammer, Hooded crow, Garden warbler, Grey heron, Eurasian blue tit, Eurasian blackcap, Common rosefinch, European goldfinch and Common chiffchaff among others.Leaf warbler
Leaf warblers are small insectivorous passerine birds belonging to the genus Phylloscopus. The genus was introduced by the German zoologist Friedrich Boie in 1826. The name Phylloscopus is from Ancient Greek phullon, "leaf", and skopos, "seeker" (from skopeo, "to watch").Leaf warblers were formerly included in the Old World warbler family but are now considered to belong to the family Phylloscopidae, introduced in 2006. The family originally included the genus Seicercus, but all species have been moved to Phylloscopus in the most recent classification. Leaf warblers are active, constantly moving, often flicking their wings as they glean the foliage for insects along the branches of trees and bushes. They forage at various levels within forests, from the top canopy to the understorey. Most of the species are markedly territorial both in their summer and winter quarters. Most are greenish or brownish above and off-white or yellowish below. Compared to some other "warblers", their songs are very simple. Species breeding in temperate regions are usually strongly migratory.List of birds of the Isle of Man
Over 300 species of bird have been recorded in the wild on the Isle of Man, a self-governing island in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. Over 100 species breed there, including significant populations of red-billed chough, peregrine falcon and hen harrier.A variety of seabirds breed on the coastal cliffs such as Atlantic puffin, black guillemot, black-legged kittiwake, European shag and northern fulmar. The island gives its name to the Manx shearwater which formerly nested in large numbers on the Calf of Man. The colony disappeared following the arrival of rats but the shearwaters began to return in the 1960s. The Ayres in the north of the island have colonies of little tern, Arctic tern and common tern.Moorland areas on the island are home to red grouse, Eurasian curlew and northern raven. Woodland birds include long-eared owl, common treecreeper, Eurasian blackcap and common chiffchaff. There is little native woodland on the island and several species found in Great Britain, such as tawny owl, Eurasian green woodpecker and Eurasian jay, do not breed on the isle of Man.
Many birds visit the island during the winter and migration seasons including waders such as purple sandpiper, turnstone and golden plover. Wintering wildfowl include small numbers of whooper swan. A bird observatory was established on the Calf of Man in 1959 to study the migrating and breeding birds. By the end of 2001, 99,042 birds of 134 species had been ringed there. Numerous rarities have been recorded there including American mourning dove and white-throated robin.
The list below includes 323 species of bird. The English names are those recommended by the International Ornithological Congress (IOC) with alternative names given in brackets. The scientific names and classification follow the British Ornithologists' Union (BOU). Species marked as rare are those for which the Manx Ornithological Society (MOS) requires a written description in order to accept a record.The Manx Ornithological Society uses the following codes:
A: a species which has occurred naturally on the island since 1 January 1950
B: a species which has occurred naturally but only before 31 December 1949
C: a species with an established breeding population as a result of introduction by man
C*: a species which has visited the island from an introduced population in Great BritainFailed introductions such as black grouse or species which are not yet established such as red-winged laughingthrush are not included on the list.Mountain chiffchaff
The mountain chiffchaff or eastern chiffchaff (Phylloscopus sindianus) is a species of leaf warbler found in the Caucasus (P. s. lorenzii) and Himalayas (P. s. sindianus), and is an altitudinal migrant, moving to lower levels in winter. The nominate subspecies is similar to the Siberian chiffchaff, but with a finer darker bill, browner upperparts and buff flanks; its song is almost identical to the common chiffchaff, but the call is a weak psew. P. s. lorenzii is warmer and darker brown than the nominate race; it is sympatric with common chiffchaff in a small area in the Western Caucasus, but interbreeding occurs rarely, if ever. The mountain chiffchaff differs from tristis in vocalisations, external morphology and mtDNA sequences. Its two subspecies appear to be distinct vocally, and also show some difference in mtDNA sequences.Padworth Common Local Nature Reserve
Padworth Common Local Nature Reserve is a local nature reserve on the edge of the hamlet of Padworth Common in Berkshire, England. The nature reserve is under the management of the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust.Potton Wood
Potton Wood covers an area of 85ha (211 acres) and is two miles east of the small town of Potton in the county of Bedfordshire, England. It is part of Ampthill Forest and is managed by Forest Enterprise and owned by the Forestry Commission.Potton Wood has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its significance as an oak/ash/field maple ancient woodland; its structure and flora are typical of the West Cambridgeshire Boulder Clay woodland group.Unusual plants in the wood include oxlip (a national rarity at the edge of its European range here), herb paris, bird's nest orchid and nettle-leaved bellflower. There are plants typical of ancient woodland: common bluebell, dog's mercury, yellow archangel, wood millet and wood anemone. Potton Wood has large areas of broadleaved woodland, some dating back to at least 1601, but also had commercially planted, non-native conifers which were removed in 2004 as part of a long term project to restore the coppiced ancient woodland.Mammals found in the wood include fallow deer, grey squirrel, red fox, European hare and European mole; there are birds such as common nightingale, common chiffchaff, blackcap, common whitethroat and European turtle dove, and white admiral and purple hairstreak butterflies.
On 18 September 1945, a B-24 Liberator bomber based at No. 466 Squadron RAAF at Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire, crashed on the southern edge of Potton Wood. Four men were killed. The place where it fell can still be seen.There is access by footpaths from Hatley Road.Sandhurst to Owlsmoor Bogs and Heaths
Sandhurst to Owlsmoor Bogs and Heaths is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) based in Berkshire between Crowthorne, Owlsmoor, Little Sandhurst and Sandhurst. Part of the site is a nature reserve called Wildmoor Heath which is managed by the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Naturalists Trust.Siberian chiffchaff
Siberian chiffchaff (Phylloscopus (collybita) tristis) is a leaf-warbler which is usually considered a subspecies of the common chiffchaff, but may be a species in its own right.Western Canary Islands chiffchaff
The western Canary Islands chiffchaff (Phylloscopus canariensis canariensis) is a small bird in the family Phylloscopidae. It is a subspecies of the Canary Islands chiffchaff found on the islands of El Hierro, La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife and Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, Spain.
Both the western and the now extinct eastern (Phylloscopus canariensis exsul) subspecies of the Canary Islands chiffchaff were formerly considered subspecies of the common chiffchaff but were separated (Clement & Helbig, 1998; Sangster et al., 2001) due to their morphological, bioacoustical, and mtDNA sequence differences (Helbig et al., 1996).Whitegrove Copse
Whitegrove Copse is a local nature reserve within Wick Hill. The nature reserve is owned and managed by Bracknell Forest Borough Council.Wraysbury and Hythe End Gravel Pits
Wraysbury and Hythe End Gravel Pits is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) based in Wraysbury,Berkshire. The site is important for the number of bird species it features.